Some movies are so tense and deeply affecting that they shave years off your life as you're watching, only to give back that lost time, and more, at the end. Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity is one of those movies. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski-- one a medical engineer, the other, as he puts it, the guy who "drives the bus"-- who find themselves adrift in space, cut off from communication with Earth. This is Cuarón's first movie since his stunning dystopian fantasy Children of Men, and his first in 3D. To see Clooney and Bullock circling one another, nearly drifting into oblivion only to be reeled back, all captured in takes so long it's as if Cuarón's camera can't bring itself to look away-- this is what 3D was made for. The film is both a spectacle and a platform for its actors, especially Bullock. An early scene shows her drifting, tetherless, losing oxygen. She's terrified but also astonished, and she has never looked more beautiful-- cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki renders her skin as luminous as platinum. Even the sound of her breathing, strained and intensified, draws us close to her. Stone continues to talk even after contact with home has been lost: She can't hear Houston, but Houston may be able to hear her, which is as apt and unsentimental a metaphor for prayer as I can think of. Gravity is harrowing and comforting, intimate and glorious, the kind of movie that makes you feel more connected to the world rather than less. In space, no one can hear you scream. But a whole audience can hear you breathe. And that is a wondrous thing.
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